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Cal-Arizona Hoops Preview: Battle for First in the Pac, Part II

Deja vu, eh? Let's take a look at how Cal will tackle the surging, athletic Arizona Wildcats.

This game really spells trouble. Other than Seattle, Tucson is probably one of the hardest places in basketball to play in the conference. Sunday afternoon will be a true test of mettle as the Bears attempt to win two in a row on the road for the first time this season. And let's face it--in conference play, the Bears have followed up all their impressive win with a total dud. Get ready to grind.

Team Oeff Deff Tempo eFG% TO% Off Reb. % FTA/FGA
Cal 118.1 (5) 93.0 (59) 71.4 (38) 52.9 (42) 17.9 (44) 34.9 (94) 35.5 (228)
Arizona 107.9 (79) 94.3 (75) 68.9 (126) 49.7 (127) 19.8 (119) 29.7 (279) 45.4 (30)

(stats courtesy of Pomeroy)

The only thing that gives you pause is the free throw shooting, where Arizona just gets to the line game after game. If Zona can attack well enough in their halfcourt set and find ways to slop up Cal's offense, it could lead to great things for the Wildcats. Much of that is due to one man.

Alpha dog: Derrick Williams (6'7", 210; 118.2 offensive rating, 26.1% of possessions, 59.2 eFG%, 63.3 true shooting %, 9.3 offensive rebounding %, 21.1 defensive rebounding %, 12.6 turnover rate, 3.0 block %, 8.0 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, 91.4 FT rate)

Oh good god. Jamal Boykin's reward for his outstanding effort against Eric Boateng is to likely draw the most athletic freshman in the conference. With Arizona running a two forward, three guard alignment, Boykin could definitely be drawn outside and exploited off the dribble and might not be as effective drawing Williams. Expect several Bears to foul out of this one, because Williams's best ability out of all the ones above is getting sent to the charity stripe.

A 215-pound wing forward at Southern California's La Mirada High School who popped in three-pointers at a 40 percent rate last season, Williams has morphed this season into a 240-pound post player who goes to the foul line 7.9 times a game.

Oh, and he's also among the Pac-10's top 10 in both scoring (15.3, eighth) and rebounding (7.2, sixth).

In some ways, Williams still can't believe it's happening.

"It's surprised me a little bit," Williams said. "I didn't think I'd get fouled as much as I did. I didn't think I'd get fouled and pick up 15, 20 points or whatever. I thought I'd just come and be a role player."

He was underestimating himself.

"Derrick is a terrific kid," Miller said. "If you're around him five minutes, you'll see his great humility. He probably doesn't expect enough from himself, truth be told."

This has all the makings of Quincy Pondexter, part II if the Bears aren't careful. Boykin is probably too slow to guard him in the lane, Jorge too small, Amoke too careless, Max and MSF too slow. Size-wise, Theo's probably the best one-on-one matchup without trapping, but hopefully the Bears will have enough to slow the emerging beast down. Otherwise Cal could have a rough go of it in Tucson.

Point guard: Nic Wise (5'10", 177; 79.6% of minutes played, 25.1% of possessions, 25.6% of shots, 56.6 true shooting %, 26.8 assist rate, 3.3 steal %, 5.1 fouls drawn per 40 minutes, 90% FT shooter)

Lost in Williams's phenomenal year has been Wise's quiet, solid efficiency. Wise gets fouled plenty (compensating for his poor shooting percentage, he shoots 90% from the line), distributes the ball effectively, and forces a lot. It'll be an interesting duel between Randle and Wise as both seem to draw plenty of fouls--Randle got the best of their head-to-head meetings last year, but this could be a much tougher get with the emerging Williams patrolling inside. Wise should not have as much trouble going inside as he did last year, and he did eat up the Bears his freshman year. Whoever wins the point guard battle likely wins this one, so stay tuned for this duel.

Wings: Jamelle Horne (6'6", 209; 55.9 eFG%, 18.5 defensive rebound %, 4.2 block %, 45.6% three point shooter)

Theo Robertson looks like he'll guard Horne as long as Boykin and the bigs do a serviceable job on Williams. This could be to Cal's advantage, although Horne could give Robertson trouble with his length and ability to disrupt shots. His efficiency from downtown could also be troublesome.

Kyle Fogg (6'2", 175, 112.3 offensive rating, 54.3 eFG%, 60.1 true shooting %, 48.9 FT rate, 81% FT shooter, 47% three point shooter)

Patrick Christopher will have to step his game up too. Fogg and Horne are deadlier three point shooters than Kuksiks and Abbott; leaving Arizona open looks at three point shots could draw an early double digit deficit, and lord knows how we come back from that. Fogg won't take as many threes as Horne, but with much of the attention likely to be focused on Williams.

Solomon Hill (6'6", 195)

Omondi Amoke will likely draw Hill by default--although Hill does nothing particularly great, the Bears seem to be in the habit of spotting unheralded underclassmen huge games as of late, so watch out for him to make some noise.

piratedan7 of Arizona Desert Swarm summarized how his team was improving after the Wildcats took out the Cardinal Thursday night.

The things that they can take more control of and they are…

1) free throw shooting is going up, especially DWill’s numbers, in PacX play he’s really buckled down and cocentrated on the line

2) rebounding, especially in the last two games, Stanford didn’t get many second looks and the Cats even drew fouls boxing out on the defensive end.

3) turnovers are down, assists are up. well mostly, at least the turnovers ae down, only 10 tonite and I think there would have been more assists but the Cats missed some makeable shots tonight.

We have two guys that are doing many of the things that need done, Kyle is giving the Cats a 3rd scoring option. It’s strange how Dwill has become such an offensive force, yet he’s clearly established himself as option #1, with Nic or Jamelle or Kyle, whoever is shooting as being fairly relable alternatives.

This is one young Arizona team playing with nothing to lose, so the Bears have to watch out for the Wildcats to come out with a great deal of energy at home to grab first place in the conference. If they can weather the storm and impose their half-court offense and defense on the Wildcats, our discipline and experience might just be enough to grab a huge sweep.

But of course, we know nothing is for certain in this wild Pac-10.